With a solid fanbase and decent home video sales, sequels to the Starship Troopers come as a no-brainer. After a rather successful all-CGI animated series, the series branched off into some direct-to-video sequels, the third of which is Starship Troopers 3: Marauder. This film reunites fans with the star of the first film, Casper Van Dien, and takes them on an all-new planet hopping mission complete with new characters and, of course, a myriad of new bugs to fight. But new bugs aren’t the only thing that’s new in Marauder—after all of the recent bug upgrades, the Mobile Infantry get their own upgrades as well.
Col. Johnny Rico (Van Dien) returns to lead his team on a secret mission to rescue a group of troopers stranded on the remote planet OM-1. In addition to the vicious bugs being more brutal than ever, Rico’s team must deal with a heinous plot inside the Federation itself that’s not only threatening its way of life, but also the lives of those serving in the Mobile Infantry. Racing against the clock, Rico fights to save a childhood friend, Captain Lola Beck (Jolene Blalock), from becoming bug food, while Beck herself fights to keep her crew of survivors alive.
I’ll be honest. I didn’t expect much from this film and while I greatly enjoyed the original Starship Troopers (and the first time I saw that one was right before watching this third film), this third film really just felt like a cheap cash in. Nothing about it was up to par of the original film and while it’s great that there are fans of the series out there that continue to enjoy this universe, I honestly don’t feel that this is the type of film that requires future sequels. It’s a parody film and while this one does its own job of mixing in political commentary into the satire, it oddly feels…rather forced down our throats this time. I guess the whole “finding religion” aspect that one of our characters have in the film is supposed to relate to something in modern society, but I’m actually not finding a real link…not a clear one, at least.
But hey, the political satire was only one of the things that was enjoyable about the first film, so the rest of the bug squashing should at least be fun to watch, right? Wrong. The CGI used in this film looks like something that was lifted straight from the cartoon and plunked down into the film. I find it hard to believe in an era when sci-fi shows on television with modest budgets can pull off more believable CGI than what this film did. The bugs movements are stiff and incredibly puppet-like in form, to the point where hardly any of the deaths in the film are remotely believable. What was so great about the first film was how alive the bugs felt—aside from some of the real-life scale bugs used in some of the shots for Marauder, this one just doesn’t have the same level of pop that the original had. Oh and the CGI robots at the end? Geesh.
Ok, ok, so we have two strikes here, but the third area of the original film was the camaraderie amongst the soldiers and their banter with one another. While there is some nice interactions between Rico, Lola and her boyfriend, Dix Hauser (Boris Kodjoe), it really ends there. We don’t get to know a lot of Rico’s squad (but we see them all naked! Fantastic! And very, very unnecessary). Not to mention once we get to Lola’s portion of the film, the bug fighting all but stops and we’re left with a solid wall of talky sequences that really just extend the film until we get to see the final, exciting battle with the bugs. I understand the budgets small, but don’t pad another hour onto a half hour story if you don’t have something to back it up with. This film really would have worked better as a TV series and with the budget it had for the SF/X department, I’m sure the Sci-Fi channel could afford to fund a series such as this.
I guess my main issue with the film is that it tries hard to please but ultimately comes off as something out of fan fiction. I know that comment will anger many, but it’s the best comparison I can make; it’s not necessarily a bad story, but it’s almost too many new characters to become acquainted with and Rico’s mannerisms, while the same from the first film, just don’t work without the same crew with him. Thankfully there’s still the humor in the film, but unlike the first film I was laughing at spots I wasn’t supposed to, not only because of its absurdity but because I was finding the fact I was so incredibly bored as a big joke when I so thoroughly enjoyed the first film.
If you’re a huge fan of the films, then I guess you can find something redeemable here. But hell, I really did enjoy the first film and would consider myself a fan, even if I’m only one who’s mulled the film over for a day, but I just didn’t get into this film in the same way as the first. The newness and unique element of the film just isn’t the same when sequeled. I wish I could have enjoyed it, but between the rather boring plot, weird “satire” moments and horrible CGI, this just doesn’t have the same feel as the first. Skip It if you’re a newcomer, Rent It if you’re a fan.
Sony has delivered a strong package for Marauder, even though I’m not entirely sure it deserves it. The set itself arrives in a standard Blu-ray case with an insert advertising the Blu-ray format, while the disc art shows one of the robots against a stark white background. Extras are all presented in full 1080p definition and the film itself sports a fantastic transfer, with plenty of detail and vibrant colors. Unfortunately the level of clarity hurts the CGI, as you’re able to really see how horrible it is. Again, I know, there was a budget to take into concern, but…man, that was some trashy CGI. Audio is a modest Dolby TrueHD 5.1 mix that busts out the subwoofer goods when it’s called for and has decent channel separation. Though the film does have quite a few strings of talky moments which remain clean and clear in the front channels and there are plenty of sound options to choose from for the film including French, Spanish, Portuguese and Thai, all in Dolby Digital 5.1 surround. Subtitles include English, English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese (Traditional), Chinese (Simplified), Korean, Thai and Indonesian.
First up on the extras front is a pair of commentaries. The first includes the filmmakers (director/writer Ed Neumeier, producer David Lancaster, effects supervisor Robert Skotak) who talk about not only how much fun it was to make but also to how it was made on a low budget. They all but avoid saying that they know that the CGI on screen is cheap, but it was the best they can do. I can kind of respect that, but it doesn’t make the CGI any less bad looking. The next commentary is with writer/director Ed Neumeier and actors Capser Van Dien and Jolene Blalock, with this track shifting focus away from the construction of the film and more on the actor’s experiences. Van Dien is a bit chattier here than he was on the Starship Troopers commentary, although Neumeier leads both tracks fearlessly.
A Blu-ray exclusive feature is the “Maurader Mode”, which is a glorious effort that blends in interviews, on-set footage and universe factoids that “take you above and beyond the world of Starship Troopers 3: Maruader.” Really, it’s just a simple picture-in-picture blend in, but it has some cool little bits thrown in. There’s also some BD-Live functionality, but I’m so unimpressed by that area of the menu simply for how long it takes to load (seriously, I’m not on dial-up, how is it taking so long?) and by the time it does the extra “previews” and measly “Extras” it offers simply isn’t worth the long wait.
On the regular extras front we have “Evolution: The Bugs of Starship Troopers 3: Marauder” (11:32), a look at the Bugs in the film and “Enlist: Marauder’s Mobile Infantry” (13:55), a look at the characters of the film. There’s no real “making-of” but between these extras and the “Maurader Mode”, you should get enough of an idea of how this call came together. If you really care about that sort of thing. Oh and there’s an extended music video of “It’s a Good Day to Die” (2:40). Again…if you really care about that sort of thing.
Overall a solid Blu-ray effort, but a rather poor example of a film. A lot of sci-fi shows are canceled before their prime and when given the effort to show off their universe more on DTVs, then they usually make the most of it. In the case of Starship Troopers, the end result just seems to point toward leaving the series alone and letting fans remember it as a great movie and a solid animated series. These DTVs are becoming wholly unnecessary as they offer nothing to the universe. Skip It.
Starship Troopers 3: Marauder is now available on DVD and Blu-ray.